Core Value: Growth

This story was first published in the Winter 2011 issue of the Sunshine magazine.

Core Value: Growth 

Growth is something MCH expects from all youth. While each story is different, staff members consider it a great achievement in every case. Denzel, a resident at the Boys Ranch, is one example.

Denzel came to the Boys Ranch in July 2009. He was ordered by juvenile court to spend one year at MCH, and his outlook on his time at the Home was just that, time served.

“Denzel was withdrawn when he came to the Boys Ranch,” said Larry Slonaker, one of Denzel’s homeparents. “He acted out, but now he has accepted the program and what it has to offer.”

When he arrived, Denzel made up his mind that he was not going to participate in anything the Home made available to him. He said he planned to sit in his room, only to leave when he attended school. However, Denzel became interested in playing football.

“Playing football is a privilege at MCH,” Denzel said. “And football started to become a passion of mine, so I decided to work with the program at the Boys Ranch instead of against it.”

Last year, Denzel played on the Home’s state champion flag football team, which competed in a charter school league. This year, MCH moved to a new league and made the transition to six-man tackle football, which gave Denzel an opportunity to display his talents at a higher level of competition. Denzel was named second-team all-state by the Texas Christian Athletic League (TCAL), and he was selected to play in the TCAL all-star game in December.

Larry and his wife, Jeanean, believe Denzel became interested in participating in other activities at the Boys Ranch as he experienced joy and success in playing football.

“Playing football has helped Denzel with his confidence,” Larry said. “He has taken on more of a leadership role in the home unit and with his peers. He actively participates in the home unit meetings and tries to encourage others.”

Jeanean describes Denzel as an attentive listener and intelligent young man. She said Denzel was recently recommended to be the peer mediator for their home unit. Residents selected as peer mediators will go through intensive training to learn how to help their peers with conflict resolution.

“Denzel is naturally a peer mediator,” Jeanean said. “He doesn’t do it for the recognition – he’s usually behind the scenes. He tries to help his peers work through whatever is going on.”

Denzel admits he is not perfect and he slips up from time to time, but he likes to be supportive and help his peers when he can.

“They definitely have a peer they can talk to if they want to,” Denzel said. “I’m that person for them.”

Jeanean said the confidence Denzel is gaining at the Boys Ranch is giving him hope for his future. She said he talks about possible careers and wants to attend college on a scholarship.

“I would like to be a family guidance counselor,” Denzel said. “If I wouldn’t have come to the Home, I don’t think I would be in school or have hope for attending college. The Home has helped me to grow, and it has provided so many opportunities for me.”

The Slonakers and other Boys Ranch staff continually encourage Denzel to work hard to achieve his goals. Staff members believe the social work field would be a good fit for Denzel.

“Most teenagers struggle when they start thinking about their future plans,” Jeanean said. “Denzel is on his way to finding his place in this world.”

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